Cyber conference extolls virtues of collaboration



by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs


11/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air Force Research Institute, or AFRI, held its cyber power conference last week at Maxwell, bringing together experts in the burgeoning field of cyberspace. The conference addressed a lack of accepted standards for definitions, data structures, threat assessments and policies both within and across communities employing cyber power.

Dr. Anthony Gould, division chief for engagement at AFRI and conference project officer, said the conference was developed "to generate collaboration across multiple domains of military, academic and civilian sectors to build a common understanding of cyber methods, terms and definitions. Future dialogue on common cyber issues among partnerships initially established at the conference will help develop a whole-of-society consensus regarding cyber conflict and security."

Gen. Michael Hayden echoed the importance of the conference and the need for defined terms in developing policy in the institute's "Strategic Studies Quarterly."

"Rarely has something been so important and so talked about with less clarity and less apparent understanding than this phenomenon. But few of us (myself included) have created the broad structural framework within which to comfortably and confidently place these varied phenomena. And that matters," he said.

"I have sat in very small group meetings in Washington, been briefed on an operational need and an operational solution, and been unable (along with my colleagues) to decide on a course of action because we lacked a clear picture of the long-term legal and policy implications of any decision we might make," he said.

The conference featured experts from from interagency, joint, industry, academic and international entities participating in panel discussions about specific themes.
Gould credited "the expert presentations and dynamic discussions generated during the panel sessions."

"Both days of the conference were well-attended, and initial feedback from the conferees has been very positive," he said.

"One huge benefit of the event was the diverse background and skills of the presenters who represented military, academic, and civilian domains. The various viewpoints from the different presenters helped raise cyber interoperability as an important issue for the Air Force which relies on interaction with civilian resources worldwide."

Stories and case studies helped flesh out the narrative, said Gould.

"These real-life examples of cyber events from the different domains demonstrated the differences and commonalities across DOD, businesses, and universities. In total they pointed to the need for a common cyber framework or common ground in the cyber domain," he said.

In an interview with 'CyberPro,' a National Security Cyberspace Institute publication, Panayotis Yannakogeorgos, the organizer of the conference, said he hopes events like this conference will allow the AFRI to encourage communication in the cyber field.

"The main challenge is getting past the cultures of secrecy that exist both within government and the private sector and inhibit the sharing of data that will provide a shared awareness and understanding of vulnerabilities and threats within the cyber environment," he said.

The AFRI staff wants the conversation to continue online and plans to reformat the cyber conference website at http://afri.au.af.mil/cyber/ to facilitate this.